1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Isaac Reed

A Literary Gentleman, "Metrical Character of the late Isaac Reed, Esq. Inscription to be placed under Romney's Portrait" Monthly Mirror NS 1 (March 1807) 164.



In aspect though solemn, in temper sedate,
There are times when this picture hangs too much of weight.
On that brow and those eyes, as from sight they recede,
To present a true semblance of kind-thoughted Reed.
Those times by his club-mates not few will be found,
When the glass and the jest circle cheerily round;
While to many a tale, in the memory pent,
His side-long allusions give sociable vent:
But the tale must be guileless, the inference just,
Or Isaac will listen to both with disgust.
'Twas hence that arch Steevens oft met a rebuff,
When his sallies were check'd by a moral "quan. suff."

As a critic his candour will ne'er be surpast,
And his reading, if not universal, is vast.
Most keen to remark, with comparative eye,
What common observers pass heedlessly by,
And exact to record, with oracular pride,
Whatever the press or the pen has supplied,
Or the brain has in travail brought secretly forth,
Unown'd or unpublish'd, he'll tell you its birth,
Its parentage, history, scope, and design,
And perhaps (if you press him) its author define.

As a man, as an editor, frugal and chaste,
In words or in wit he lets nothing run waste;
For of manners reserv'd, and in voice somewhat rough,
The shortest of answers he deems long enough:
And so blunt are his words, that a stranger must err
Who the drift of his heart from his speech should infer.
The cocoa-tree thus might a novice repel,
Who should guess at the fruit from a glance at the shell;
And dreamt not that sweetness and milkiness too,
Gave worth to the kernel conceal'd from the view.